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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

i. h. s.

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is an inscription or monogram which has probably been used by the Christian Church from an early date among the sacred symbols on church furniture, and in painted windows of the house of God, but its use has by no means been confined to ecclesiastical buildings. On tombs, roofs, and walls of houses, on books, and on other possessions of Christians, this monogram has been, and is even now, frequently impressed, especially among the adherents of the Roman, Greek, and Anglican churches. The interpretations which have been given of this mystic title are threefold. One is that they are the initials of the words "In Hoc Signo," borrowed from the luminous cross which it is said was miraculously displayed in the sky before Constantine and his army. Others make them the initials of the words "Jesus Hominusm Salvator," especially the Jesuits, who use it for their badge and motto in the form I.H.S; and still another, that they are the first three letters of the Greek ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, Jesus. This last opinion has been espoused by the late "Cambridge Camden Society" in a work which they published on this subject: Argument for the Greek Origin of the Monogram L H. S. (London, 1841).

The earliest Christian emblems found also seem to confirm this opinion, as they are in every case written in the Greek language, and "the celebrated monogram inscribed by Constantine's order on the labarum, or standard of the cross, was undoubtedly Greek." Eusebius (Eccles. Hist.), in describing the famous standard, says, "A long spear, overlaid with gold, formed the figure of the cross by means of a piece laid transversely over it. On the top of the whole was fixed a crown, formed by the intertexture of gold and precious stones; and on this two letters indicating the name of Christ symbolized the Savior's title by means of its first characters, the letter P being intersected by a X exactly in its center; and these letters the emperor was in the habit of Wearing on his helmet at a later period." In regard to the shape of the letter S being Roman, and not (reek, The Church, a paper of the Church of England in Canada, says, "It might easily have become corrupted (i.e. the Greek Σ into a Latin S) it would not, indeed, have been intelligible except to a few of the best scholars unless it were corrupted-and so could scarcely have escaped transmutation when the knowledge of the Greek tongue, which we are certified was the case, perished, or very nearly so, during the Middle Ages in the Western Church." Staunton, Eccl. Dict. p. 382; Blunt, Eccles. Dict. 1, 375. (See LABARUM).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'i. h. s.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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